Want to know a skater that’s playing above his head, another who’s been snake bit, and a third who’ll continue humming along? Then you’ve come to the right place. For first time readers or those needing a refresher, this column is a play on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, except instead of there being three bowls of porridge I’m covering three skaters and declaring one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should be). I also assign each a rating of 1-10, indicating just how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), or how cold (rated 1-4, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or how “just right” (rated 4-7, where 5.5 is the most “just right”) he is.
On tap are three skaters scoring at or near a point per game rate (through 11/3) – Travis Konecny, Andrei Svechnikov, and Jake Guentzel. Based on what’s happened so far in this young season, which one of the three is too hot, who is too cold, and who’s playing “just right.? Put on your thinking caps and come up with your best guesses, then read on to find out if your spidey senses were correct.
Although he has never posted even 50 points in a season, Konecny was inked to a 6 year, $33M contract this summer, raising more than a few eyebrows, particularly from those in cap leagues. So far though, Konecny is making that price look like a bargain. Is this just a stretch of unsustainably torrid play? Yes, but it’s also indeed a real breakout.
The major thing pointing away from Konecny being able to keep up this pace is he doesn’t have either high ice time (only 17:10 per game) or high shot volume (2.23 per contest). Out of 371 instances of 75+ point scoring among forwards since 2000-01, only 12 had both lower average ice time and SOG rate than where Konecny is now. What’s more – Konecny’s offensive zone starting percentage is 45%, which, if it was to continue, would also make it difficult to imagine sustained point per game scoring. Plus, he’s not taking the ice for even 50% of his team man-advantage time, although he is doing well, already having come close to matching his career-high in PPPts in just the first month of the season.
So Konecny isn’t yet point per game material. What’s suggests he’s having a true breakout? Let’s not forget that while he’d never hit the 50 point mark in a prior NHL season, his point total had increased in each, as had his ice times; so signs were already pointing in the right direction going into this season. Also, he’s just above the 200 career games played mark, which, as noted in the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide, is considered the new benchmark on this site for when a forward is most likely to breakout. And for those who don’t buy into using that as their breakout barometer, it also happens to be his “magical fourth year,” which was the previous guidepost in assessing when a player could see his point total jump substantially. Long story short, career-wise the timing is right for him to be seeing a leap in production.
There’s also the fact that Konecny has some favorable metrics, notably his team shooting percentage being 8.8%, which leaves some room for improvement and certainly allays concerns about his personal shooting percentage being elevated. And even as he’s spending more time in the top six, his IPP is above 70% for the third straight season, proving he has a strong nose for scoring.
To the surprise of – hopefully – not many, Konecny is TOO HOT. But I included him because I wanted to make clear that “TOO HOT” doesn’t have to mean a player will sink to his previous levels. Instead, I see enough positives to suggest he’s a lock for 60 points and, given his banked production, probably north of 65. But 70+ is likely a stretch unless somehow he gets more PP time and/or shoots the puck more than he has thus far. As such, he gets a 9.25 rating.
Playing with maturity beyond his 19 years and roughly 100 total NHL games, Svechnikov stormed out of the gates to finish October right at the point per game mark. Although some might be inclined to see this as just a young player having caught fire for a dozen or so games, it’s more likely we’re witnessing a sustainable point per game production.
Those who read my 15 Fearless Forecasts column might remember me making note of the fact that in posting 20+ goals while averaging 2+ SOG per game as an 18-year-old last season, Svechnikov joined a very exclusive club of players who also did so since 2000-01 and are now 23+ years of age: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nathan MacKinnon, Steven Stamkos, and Jeff Skinner. Of them, only Stamkos also failed to post 50 points as a rookie but then proceeded to skyrocket to 95 points in his sophomore season. And while past precedent doesn’t dictate future results, this has to be looked at as a great sign. There’s also the fact that Svechnikov already has seven multi-point games this season, which, as I write this, puts him tied for second among forwards and only one behind David Pastrnak and Leon Draisaitl, who just happen to be the NHL’s leading scorers!
Yes, his per-game ice time is barely above 16:00 and therefore well below that which would normally be seen from point per game forwards; but unlike Konecny, Svechnikov is a PP1 staple and his SOG rate is right at the three per game mark. His SOG rate is especially key, as all but one of the five instances of a teen being a point per game player since 1990-91 had them averaging at least as many SOG per game as Svechnikov. Moreover, Svechnikov’s 3+ SOG per game is a threshold reached by 73 of the 127 wingers who posted 80+ points in a season since 2000-01. In other words, SOG does matter, and his strong output lends a lot of legitimacy to his scoring rate despite his low ice time. Plus, his other metrics reinforce that he’s not overachieving. Notably, his team shooting percentage is slightly under 9.0% and his IPP is 65.9%, both of which are neither high nor low.
Svechnikov’s PP prowess is also important, as with him a PP1 staple the team is converting on nearly a quarter of its PP chances, up from one in sixth last season, making it likely he’ll keep his spot. That too is an area where Svechnikov should be able to compensate for overall low ice time. And lest we think he’s been lucky in terms of receiving points on PP goals scored while he was on the ice, his IPP on the power play is virtually identical to his 5×5 IPP, suggesting his PP scoring is not by any means a fluke.
If you own Svechnikov, prepare yourself for more of what we’ve seen so far, as his production has been JUST RIGHT. Yes, his ice time trails by a good amount what we’d normally see for a player producing at this rate; however, as we saw there are enough other factors to legitimize his point per game numbers. I think he’ll end up right at the 80 point mark, so he gets a 5.75 rating.
After ending last season with 38 points – 22 of the goals – in his last 40 regular-season games, much was expected of Guentzel, including from yours truly (see #10). And with a month of 2019-20 in the books, Guentzel owners are likely pleased, as his output shows his production over the second half of 2018-19 was no fluke. But guess what – Guentzel owners should be prepared to have even bigger smiles on their faces.
The biggest change for Guentzel this season is his ice times, as he’s seeing upwards of 21:00 per game, or which over 3:30 has come with the man advantage, translating to 70% of his team’s man-advantage minutes. That’s an increase of two minutes overall and a major uptick from him not even taking the ice for half his team’s PP minutes last season. And he’s also shooting the puck more, topping three SOG per game for the first time. All of these outpace the gains he made at the end of last season, which in turn suggest he’s capable of more than the point per game rate at which he was producing then and has been this season thus far. Also, despite firing more pucks on net, Guentzel’s shooting percentage for 2019-20 is in line with his career mark, and his average shot distance is down 15% from his prior two seasons, boding well for a higher rate of goal scoring than even last season.
Thus far he also only has two PPPts to show for his spot on PP1 and vastly increased PP Time. Despite this, upon Evgeni Malkin’s return, Guentzel was still on PP1; and should the team opt to make a change to its top unit, chances are it’d be to revert to the more familiar 4F, 1D configuration they’ve run, leaving his spot on PP1 presumably safe. And so long as he retains that spot he should excel, as he’s essentially stepping in for what used to be the domain of Phil Kessel, whose 78 PPPts over the past two seasons was second in the entire NHL. I’m not suggesting that Guentzel will produce PP numbers anywhere near as gaudy; but his PP scoring rate should improve, vastly.
Looking at other metrics, Guentzel’s team shooting percentage trails his number from 2018-19, as, even more so, does his IPP. In fact, given that he’s always been by Crosby’s side, his IPP being down this much is irregular enough that we can see it as a temporary aberration which has already cost himself a few points, and, in turn, will increase his scoring rate once it improves. On top of these factors, his OZ%, which had ranged from 58% to 62% over his career, is on pace to be 65% this season, further suggesting he should be capable of amassing even more points.
Given all the data, and despite already scoring at a near point per game clip, Guentzel appears to be TOO COLD thus far for 2019-20. With the boost, he should get in PPPts and IPP, plus his other metrics pointing in the right direction, I think he’ll be able to score at a 90+ point pace over the rest of 2019-20, giving him a 3.25 rating.
Mailbag questions needed
I’m always in need of questions to answer in my monthly mailbag column. There are two ways for you to get your questions to me – (1) email them to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” in the subject line, or (2) send me a private message at the DobberHockey Forums with your question (my username is “rizzeedizzee”.